The New England Patriots traveling to Dallas to face the Cowboys and the Seattle Seahawks heading to Cincinnati to face the Bengals highlight this Sunday’s slate.
Here is the preview of Sunday’s games in the league where they play for pay.
New England Patriots (3-0) at Dallas Cowboys (2-2)
Texas Governor Greg Abbott tweeted this week: “Cowboy defense. More porous than the Texas border.”
But things could change this week, not for the Texas border, but for the Cowboys defense, with pass rusher par excellence Greg Hardy and linebacker Rolando McClain coming off NFL suspensions. Also the return of defensive leader, linebacker Sean Lee, off a concussion, should help immeasurably.
The opponent certainly does not help. Patriots QB Tom Brady coming off a bye-week with extra time to prepare always presents a daunting challenge. Backup Cowboys quarterback Matt Cassel, a long-time New England clipboard holder, helped the Dallas coaches a great deal in preparing for Brady.
This game looks like it favors the Patriots. But in this league you never know.
Running the ball successfully to take pressure off backup QB Brandon Weeden and keep Brady off the field appears the key for Dallas.
Arizona Cardinals (3-1) at Detroit Lions (0-4)
The Lions really miss a defensive tackle named Suh. And Ndamukong Suh probably misses them, as he’s getting destroyed by the local and national media for not living up to the huge contract he signed in Miami.
Suh leaving pulled a lynchpin out of the Lions. They took a huge step backwards.
The Lions traded for Baltimore Ravens nose tackle Haloti Ngata to replace Suh, but he’s past his prime and falling apart physically. He will miss this game with a calf injury.
The Lions have been snake-bitten this season, including a brutal loss last week due to a blown call.
One of these weeks you figure things will break right for them, so don’t be shocked if the Lions pull the upset. The return of star linebacker DeAndre Levy should give them a spark.
Buffalo Bills (2-2) at Tennessee Titans (1-3)
After his team committed 17 penalties in a loss to the New York Giants last week, Bills coach Rex Ryan said: “I’m proud of the way this team played.”
Just a bizarre statement. Sounds like something Josh Earnest would say. Ryan needs to raise the bar a bit.
The Bills should give Ryan something legitimately to be proud with a win over Tennessee.
Rookie quarterbacks generally don’t fare well against Ryan’s confusing, attacking style of defense.
Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota should be under constant duress from the Bills’ talented front, especially with a fellow rookie at right tackle (Jeremiah Poutasi), and his left guard Chance Warmack hurt.
Chicago Bears (1-3) at Kansas City Chiefs (1-3)
After winning their opener, the Chiefs have lost three in a row. But they aren’t overreacting.
“Treat victory and defeat for the imposters they are,” said Chief defensive coordinator Bob Sutton, the former Army coach.
The Bears might be the most injured team in the league with a voluminous injury list including 13 players listed as “questionable” for this game. Chicago’s banged-up offensive line is no match for a Chiefs’ talented defensive front, especially in one of the NFL’s loudest stadiums.
Expect the Chiefs to get to 2-3.
Cleveland Browns (1-3) at Baltimore Ravens (1-3)
The Ravens pass attack is short-handed this week without #1 receiver Steve Smith, #1 tight end Crockett Gilmore, and 2015 first round pick, wide receiver Breshad “The Burner” Perriman.
So the perfect opponent comes to town, the Browns, a team that can’t stop the run.
Expect a heavy dose of tailback Justin Forsett in a likely Ravens win.
Denver Broncos (4-0) at Oakland Raiders (2-2)
It’s not Peyton Manning spearheading the 2015 Broncos, but instead their defense, which is perhaps the best in the NFL.
And they get even better this week with talented defensive end Derek Wolf returning from a suspension.
While the Raiders show improvement this year, they still look like a work-in-progress, as we saw last week in their loss to the lowly Bears. It’s hard seeing Raiders QB Derek Carr getting much done against Denver’s dominating defense.
Expect a big game for Bronco Owen Daniels, since the Raiders struggle covering tight ends. This game favors the road team.
Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3) at Tampa Bay Buccaneers (1-3)
In a game between teams going nowhere, the Jaguars take the three-hour bus trip from North Florida to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers.
The breakdown of this game is pretty simple. The Jaguars’ quarterback, Blake Bortles, plays in his second-year of development, and Tampa Bay starts a rookie, Jameis Winston, who has thrown seven picks.
Since Bortles enjoys a year head-start on Winston, the pick here is Jacksonville.
New Orleans Saints (1-3) at Philadelphia Eagles (1-3)
There is speculation that Eagles coach Chip Kelly has one eye on his current team, and another on the USC job, where embattled coach Steve Sarkisian is in trouble.
Kelly’s gimmick offense works a lot better in college than the NFL. Also, in college, you can control the local media, and in the NFL you can’t. The Philly press drives him nuts.
The Saints come off a big win over Dallas led by Drew Brees, who returned from a shoulder injury.
This game is tough to call, but if you are looking for a tie-breaker, it’s always helpful to look at the quarterbacks in this quarterback-driven league. Brees is a lot better than Sam Bradford.
Seattle Seahawks (2-2) at Cincinnati Bengals (4-0)
Look for the Bengals to run a spread offense with multi-receiver sets. Seattle is paper thin at cornerback. Yes, their starters, Richard Sherman and Cary Williams, are healthy. But that is it. Their third, fourth, and fifth corners all sit due to injuries.
Also, the Seahawks will be without star tailback Marshawn Lynch. And their pass protection is awful.
The Bengals boast an 18-3-1 record over the last three seasons at home. All signs point to a Cincinnati win.
St. Louis Rams (2-2) at Green Bay Packers (4-0)
The Rams might be the most unpredictable team in the NFL. One week they lose to the struggling Washington Redskins, the next they beat the high-flying Arizona Cardinals.
So while it’s hard to select against Aaron Rodgers at home, the Rams are so schizophrenic, it’s very hard to pick Rams games right now.
Washington Redskins (2-2) at Atlanta Falcons (4-0)
Since they travel to Atlanta without both starting cornerbacks, the Redskins keep their fingers crossed that Falcons superstar receiver Julio Jones doesn’t play.
If Jones, dealing with hamstring and toe injuries, does play, it’s hard seeing the Redskins winning this game against one of the NFL’s best passing attacks led by QB Matt Ryan.
Keep an eye on the pre-game scratches when making your pick on this game.
San Francisco 49ers (1-3) at New York Giants (2-2)
The 49ers are a mess. And it remains to be seen how much longer than can stick with struggling QB Colin Kaepernick.
If he has yet another bad game, Jim Tomsula may replace him with Blaine Gabbert. And not helping Kaepernick’s cause is the absence of star tight end Vernon Davis, out with a knee injury.
It’s hard to pick the 49ers in a quarterback battle between Kaepernick and Eli Manning.